"The two series are curious about what we really want from the people we love," says Sophie Gilbert. "But they also use futuristic technology to complicate the subject of desire—to imagine what we might want if anything were possible, and how much control we’d crave over others." Gilbert adds: "Popular culture has always been anxious about the incompatibility of love and technological advancement, but the preoccupation tends to manifest in unrealistic ways. If the governing theme of Black Mirror, as the writer Daniel Lavery once suggested, was 'What if phones, but too much?,' the concern of so many dystopian parables is 'What if love, but digitized?' On Soulmates, an AMC anthology series from Black Mirror writers that debuted last year, the supposed discovery of a 'soul particle' led to new technology that could identify one soulmate for every person on the planet. The show’s dramatic crux came from the thought experiment it presented: What would such a breakthrough do to people? Would happy couples throw away stable marriages for the chance of true, delirious love? What would you do if your soulmate had already died? What if your soulmate’s character revealed something about yourself that you didn’t want to know? My frustration with shows that get wrapped up in hypothetical technology is that they seem to miss the forest for the trees. TV and film have largely ignored many of the real-life developments of recent years that even a decade ago might have seemed plenty dystopian: To spend so much time agonizing over how brain chips or soul uploading or a digital afterlife might affect relationships is to leave things such as Tinder, location services, the sex recession, and the dating gap relatively unexamined. And to speculate obsessively over advancements that don’t yet exist is to gloss over the innovations that do, even when there’s abundant reason to interrogate them. One of the things I appreciated about Forever, Amazon’s offbeat dramedy about a couple who find themselves bound together after death, was the otherwise very real conundrum at the core of its surreal plot: a marriage turned stale by time. More often, though, we see fantastical, paranoid stories about love and technology."
TOPICS: Made for Love, HBO Max, Starz, The Girlfriend Experience